Cllr Paul James is the Leader of Gloucester City Council.
Following the recent elections, Gloucester City Council is under majority Conservative control. We’ve been running the council since 2004 but, apart from a fleeting period of overall control in 2011-12, it’s always been as a minority administration. Nevertheless, that demonstrates a significant period of stability for a city which has traditionally swung back and forth between the two main parties in line with the national mood. Our MP, Richard Graham, who won back the seat in 2010 was also safely re-elected, trebling his majority from 2,400 to 7,200.
We ran a joined-up campaign between the two sets of elections, focusing on our record in office and our vision for Gloucester’s future. That united front extends to our Conservative colleagues at Gloucestershire County Council and in the Government, which has been extremely helpful in assisting us to achieve our ambitions locally.
Since being the Administration, we have brought in well over £700 million of investment into regenerating Gloucester (a lot for a small city), with the promise of much more to come.
The Government, through its Growth Deal, has supported our plans for a new state of the art bus station as the first phase of our Kings Quarter development. It also awarded £4.1 million to progress our joint masterplan with the County Council for the historic Blackfriars area of the city. This is just one example of us working with our County colleagues. We are sharing more and more back office services and have recently made a joint appointment of a Managing Director of the City Council (after deleting the Chief Executive position a year ago) and Commissioning Director of the County Council.
The Rugby World Cup comes to Gloucester in September and October, when we host four matches in the tournament. There is a great deal of excitement in the city about the event and we are determined to make the most of it for the benefit of our residents and businesses.
Our campaign was a positive one, highlighting our local achievements and plans – and not knocking the opposition. Our campaign slogan was “Let’s Keep Gloucester on the UP!” Labour took the polar opposite approach, following the generic national approach of scaremongering about the evil Tories and parroting Miliband’s mantra of misery – without a single positive idea of what they would do if they gained power locally.
We have some strong new talent, including some young councillors. Laura Pearsall at age 21 is the youngest ever councillor to be elected in Gloucester (beating my record from almost 20 years ago!). Hannah Norman, age 34, joins her dad Dave on the council. That said, Hannah is slightly older than my deputy leader Jennie Dallimore, who has been a real inspiration to others looking to follow her onto the council.
Our year-round campaigning helped us to see off the challenge from both parties. Chris Etheridge won his seat in a ward where the last Conservative election victory was 23 years ago. Tarren Randle turned a majority of 27 four years ago into 900 this time. And Sajid Patel was re-elected in a ward where we were outpolled heavily in the general election. So having good local candidates can make a real difference. We are now the party of choice for community activists who want to make a positive contribution in their local areas.
We have a great team. We enjoy campaigning and even socialising together. We don’t have cliques or factions. Believe it or not, we all actually like one another!
Although we have been the administration for 11 years, we haven’t run out of steam or ideas. Our manifesto was full of policies we want to implement to move Gloucester forward. The only slight downside is that we have to go through it all over again in 12 months’ time because boundary changes have prompted an all-out election. We’re confident that we can make the most of a year of overall control before we put our record to the voters again.